actor, athlete, singer, and producer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Annabelle Patricia West and John Allen Amos Sr., a self-taught diesel auto mechanic and tractor trailer driver. Shortly after his second birthday, the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where they lived while John Sr. served in the military during World War II. His father left after the war, and his mother struggled to support her family by working as a domestic and then as a certified dietician. Amos recalled that, “the only time [he] ever saw his mother concede to possible failure was one time when she could not find any food in the cupboards. She had to ask him to go to the next-door neighbor to borrow food” (interview with John Amos by the author, 2010 Amos first joined the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark New Jersey at about ...
Sandra Y. Govan
A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.
The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...
Donna L. Halper
radio personality and advertising executive, was most likely the first black announcer in the history of broadcasting, on the air as early as 1924. His successful radio career would span four decades and make him a wealthy man. Cooper did not come from an entertainment background. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he was one of ten children of William and Lavina Cooper. Jack Cooper quit school after the fifth grade to help support his impoverished family. He held a number of low-paying jobs and for a time got interested in boxing, winning more than a hundred bouts as a welterweight fighter. But he found his calling on the vaudeville stage, where he became a singer and dancer, beginning in 1905 and continuing well into the 1920s. He was more than just a performer, writing and producing skits and entire shows, often in collaboration with his first wife Estelle ...
football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.
In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...
Born in Lansing, Michigan, Earvin Johnson acquired the nickname Magic after a high school Basketball game in which he scored 36 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and made 16 assists. At Michigan State University, the 2.1 m (6 ft, 9 in) Johnson helped the Spartans, the university team, win the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in 1979.
Johnson left college after his second year (1979) to join the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He helped lead the Lakers to five NBA championships (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988). Johnson was named the NBA's most valuable player three times (1987, 1989, and 1990). He played in many All-Star games and, at the time of his retirement, held the NBA record for assists (9921 Johnson helped the Lakers become one of the ...
Wayne L. Wilson
football player, was born David Jones in Eatonville, Florida, five miles from Orlando. David's parents, Mattie and Ishmeal, who worked a variety of jobs including farm workers, had eight children, three boys and five girls. He was the seventh. The poverty-stricken family lived in an old, wooden house with no indoor plumbing until David attended high school. He was a three-sport star (baseball, basketball, and football) at all-black Hungerford High School.
However, all David dreamed about as a child was becoming a star professional football player. His father demanded that all three boys play the sport. But he noticed that David had the greatest potential for success in the pros. Jones said of his father in Pro Football Weekly, “He used to watch me practice at 5:00 in the morning doing my running when nobody else did. He supported the hell out of me” (Arkush, 27 Jan ...
Jason Philip Miller
professional basketball player, member of the Harlem Globetrotters, and minister, was born George Meadow Lemon III in Wilmington, North Carolina. Neither his parents' names nor their occupations are known. When he was eleven years old, Lemon went to the local movie house and saw a short reel about Abe Saperstein's famous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and decided that one day he would be a member. Lemon attended public school in Wilmington, where he excelled at basketball and football. In 1952, while still a high school student, he wrote the Globetrotters to request a tryout and was given one, but he failed to make the team.
That same year Lemon matriculated at Florida A M University but he spent only a few weeks there before he was drafted into the U S Army He spent two years in the service and as luck would have it was stationed ...
football player, was born James David Lofton in Fort Ord, California, the son of Michael Lofton and his wife, whose name is unknown. Indeed very little is known about his parents or his early life. James was an all-city quarterback at George Washington High School in Los Angeles before blossoming into an academic All-American at Stanford University, where in 1978 he earned a bachelor's degree in Engineering. Prior to establishing himself as a premier wide receiver under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh during his senior year, Lofton was also a top-notch track-and-field athlete. He won the long jump with a record-setting twenty-seven-foot leap as a senior at the 1978 NCAA Track-and-Field Championships. He had previously won the long jump at the 1974 California State Track and Field Championships Although Lofton s outstanding leaping ability helped him become one of the NFL s top wide ...
Jason Philip Miller
actor, performer, and minister, was born Laurence Tureaud in the rough and tumble Robert Taylor housing projects in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of twelve children. His father, Nathaniel, a minister, abandoned the family when Laurence was five years old, leaving the young boy's mother to raise her large family on a meager welfare check. Tureaud attended Dunbar Vocational School and won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M in Texas. He matriculated in 1971 but was expelled after just a year (presumably for academic indifference, though the official reasons are unclear).
His academic career apparently at an end, Tureaud enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a military policeman, but that too turned out to be a brief association. In 1971 he married Phyllis Clark The couple would have three children but later divorced Two years later he tried out for ...
O.J. Simpson was born in a poor neighborhood of San Francisco, California, the third of four children. His father left the family when Simpson was a child. At a young age Simpson wore leg braces to correct weakness in his legs, but as a teenager at Galileo High School, he was a star athlete, participating in baseball, track, and football. At the same time Simpson received several suspensions from school for misbehavior. He graduated from Galileo in 1965, but his grades kept him from attending a major university. Instead, he enrolled at City College in San Francisco, where he had a remarkable first season of football and was offered several athletic scholarships. He remained another year at City College before meeting the admissions standards for the University of Southern California (USC), which he entered in 1967. That same year, he married his first wife, Marguerite.
Steven J. Niven
football player, sportscaster, and actor, was born Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco, California, to Jimmie Simpson, a cook, and Eunice Durden, a nurse's aide. The child disliked his unusual first name, which was-given to him by an aunt who had heard of a French actor named Orenthal. Sometime during his childhood—accounts differ as to when—he began using his initials “O. J.,” which friends later adapted to “Orange Juice” and, later, to “Juice.” When O. J. was four, Jimmie Simpson abandoned his wife and family, leaving Eunice to raise four children in a two-bedroom apartment in the run-down Potrero Hill public housing projects near San Francisco's Chinatown. Eunice Simpson worked long hours to provide for her children but it was often a hard struggle When O J contracted rickets as an infant for example he was left bowlegged and in need of leg braces that his ...
Adam W. Green
football player, was born in Beaumont, Texas, the second of three sons of Willie Ray Smith Sr., a high school football coach, and Georgia Smith, a teacher and head of the city schools’ economics department. A powerful defensive force in both college and professional football, Smith found a second career as an outsized actor in film and television.
Growing up in an all‐black neighborhood in Beaumont, Smith and his brothers, Willie Ray Jr. and Lawrence Edward Tody learned football under their father while at Charlton Pollard one of three high schools where the elder Smith coached and accumulated some of his 235 victories As a standout defensive end Bubba received many scouts attention Smith wanted to attend the nearby University of Texas but while the Longhorns head coach Darrell Royal offered him a scholarship he was unable to promise that Smith would play for the still segregated program In ...
Jacob Andrew Freedman
football player and actor, was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, the second oldest of the three children of Clarence Taylor, a shipyard worker, and Iris maiden name unknown a clerk and cashier Growing up on the outskirts of town separated from his closest neighbor by a divided highway Lawrence had little contact with people outside of his family The only place he regularly socialized was at school where he was an average student with perfect attendance The family lived modestly Testing the household rules and trying to avoid his parents discipline gave Lawrence events around which he built an identity For example when sent to the grocery store with a check for the family s monthly grocery bill he purchased a large quantity of candy that he resold at school for a profit This business venture continued for years and was so successful that he became known as ...
football player, sportscaster, actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, was born in Gary, Indiana, where his father was a steelworker and his mother a homemaker. Williamson earned a track scholarship to Northwestern University, where he studied architecture, but football coach Ara Parseghian recruited him for an additional spot. After college Williamson played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1960 before jumping to the National Football League's new rival, the American Football League. In four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and three with the Kansas City Chiefs, he was an outstanding defensive back, earning the nickname “The Hammer” for his practice of hitting opposing players in the head with his forearm while tackling them.
Williamson's “unsportsmanlike” play earned him great notoriety. Before the first Super Bowl, played in January 1967, he boasted that he would knock Green Bay Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale ...